New shipping container rule aimed at increasing exports
As a result of ongoing discussions amongst interested parties, including OFBF, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced it would file a new rule to permit overweight international shipping containers be transported on Ohio highways, which is expected to support Ohio farmers’ efforts to increase exports. This breakthrough will put Ohio in a much more competitive position with neighboring states for exporting Ohio grain via shipping containers, because it will make transporting grain more cost effective.
Farmers get the word out on food safety proposal
During OFBF’s county presidents trip to Washington, D.C., farmers sat down with members of Congress and explained why a federal proposal on leafy greens would not work in Ohio.
Not only did the lawmakers listen but they took action.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had proposed a National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement that would create production and handling regulations mainly for leafy greens but may also impact other fresh vegetables. A number of Ohio lawmakers from both parties joined together to send a letter to the secretary of agriculture expressing the concerns of OFBF members.
Humane officer training
Continuing to build relationships with county humane and law enforcement officers, Ohio Farm Bureau hosted a series of meetings throughout the state in 2010 to help those dealing with animal care complaints have a better understanding of farm animal care and production practices.
Participants learned about basic body condition, feeding and shelter for animals in the dairy, equine, beef, swine, sheep, goat and poultry industries. They also learned about animal behavior and handling, how to talk to the media about animal care concerns or questions, biosecurity on the farm and the role of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
They were also invited to visit county farm operations at a later date so they can see the animals in a typical farm setting and hear first-hand from farmers and local agriculture leaders about how they care for their animals and run their operations.
Co-sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, the idea for the six-hour class, known as “Animal Agriculture 101,” came from Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau’s humane officer training program, which received American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2009 County Activities of Excellence Award.
OFBF worked to implement its policies on water quality and nutrient management as the state developed new rules for “watersheds in distress,” in response to pollution concerns in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed.
While OFBF generally supported the efforts to address the issue, it pointed out that there were no specific criteria in the rules for how “watershed in distress” would be designated. OFBF also raised several questions regarding how new regulations on manure application would be implemented and also expressed concern about Ohio Department of Natural Resources overstepping its authority.
A voice at the national level
Ohio Farm Bureau was born from the belief that farmers can get more accomplished together than as individuals. This becomes evident in the organization’s work to represent farmers in national policymaking.
Consider that there are 535 Members of congress.
And there are many more who hope to influence them. There are 1,500 federal political action committees (PACs), 2,800 registered Washington lobbying organizations and 25,000 registered federal lobbyists representing environmental groups, animal rights groups, labor, transportation, energy and much more.
There are also 7,000 congressional staff on Capitol Hill, many who are trying to influence policymaking. On average, 10,000 new pieces of legislation are introduced in a two year session of Congress of which 500 actually become new law.
And in an average year, there are 75,000 pages in the federal register of new rules and rule changes written by the government.
Given these numbers, Farm Bureau worked to ensure that farmers’ voices are heard on the policies that will impact agriculture.
Hunting program expanded to help control deer herd
A pilot program created by OFBF, the Division of Wildlife and hunting groups to address deer damage and give hunters access to land was expanded this year.
Last year, the groups launched www.huntohiofarms.com to allow farmers to search for hunters who they felt would be a good fit for their farm. In its first year, the program was targeted to farmers in four Ohio counties but was expanded to all of hunting zone C, which includes 38 counties across central, southern and eastern Ohio.
The effort is in response to farmers saying they are leery of inviting hunters onto their land. At the same time, responsible hunters say they have a hard time gaining trust from farmers who have had a bad experience in the past.